Israeli High Court to decide visa case by pro BDS and HRW worker Shakir

Shakir's case is at the nexus of politics, economics, soft power lawfare and public diplomacy.

By HEDDY BREUER ABRAMOWITZ
September 24, 2019 01:56
2 minute read.
Gerald M. Steinberg

Gerald M. Steinberg. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The High Court of Justice will hear an appeal filed by Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch ’s Israel and Palestine Director, on Wednesday. Shakir is appealing the Interior Ministry’s April rejection of his request to extend his work visa, as well as its subsequent deportation order. The ministry claims that Shakir supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

In June, the High Court postponed the appeal hearing until Tuesday, ruling that Shakir could remain in Israel in the meantime, after Amnesty International and a group of retired Israeli diplomats filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Shakir, Haaretz reported.

A Jerusalem district court originally upheld the Interior Ministry’s decision in April, declaring that previous HRW campaigns that encouraged businesses – including travel sites like Airbnb and Booking.com – to withdraw from settlements constituted supporting a boycott of Israel. Under an amendment to the Law of Entry passed in 2017, Israel can reject visa applications and entry permits to any non-citizen who has publicly supported boycotting Israel or its settlements.

“I do not support BDS and I do not oppose BDS,” Shakir told KAN Reshet Bet in July. “We don’t take positions on boycotts of Israel and we do not take positions on boycotts of any other country.”

Gerald Steinberg, founder of the Israeli watchdog group NGO Monitor, wrote in an article for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies that the HRW has been a “leader in attacks against Israel” and “antisemitic campaigns to demonize and single out Israel.” NGO Monitor was one of several organizations that filed a friend-of-the-court brief against Shakir.

“The organization’s leadership is obsessed with Israel, and their resources badly outmatch the budget-starved Israeli Foreign Ministry,” Steinberg wrote. “Far from the claim that Shakir was not doing BDS during his almost three years in Israel, the evidence clearly shows that this agenda constitutes the vast majority of his and HRW’s activities on Israel. Detailed analysis indicates that, notwithstanding a few token reports criticizing Hamas that were designed to deflect criticism, HRW’s target is unequivocally Israel.”

In a July statement issued after the High Court announced it would delay the case until Tuesday, HRW said neither the organization nor Shakir had “ever called for a boycott of Israel, as the Israeli government itself has acknowledged.”

Yonah Jeremy Bob and Abby Seitz contributed to this report.


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